BUSINESSMAN Robert Go of the Prince Retail Group has lamented why his family and friends were denied the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine shots they had privately purchased for their booster dose at a Cebu City mall on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.
“It was a horrible experience for my whole family. We were there at 7:45 a.m. and waited in a long line for two hours just to be told by a DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) representative (that we would) not be able to be vaccinated because we had our initial two doses before,” he told SunStar Cebu of his experience at the vaccination site at the AyalaMalls Central Bloc at the Cebu IT Park.
Go said they reasoned that they were there for Moderna shots they had privately bought, and that with the private purchase, they had also donated vaccine shots to the government.
“We are responsible for our own purchase of vaccines. We want to use them as booster shots, and we are not using government shots. In fact, we donated thousands of shots for the government,” he said.
Go, who falls under the A2 priority group for vaccination, said other people at the site were denied their shots too despite their falling under the A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) priority groups.
“These vaccines were paid for privately, and for every vaccine we paid for, one vaccine was donated to the government. Yet, why are we not allowed to use our own vaccines? Why?” Go asked.
“No wonder the Philippines remains to have the slowest vaccination rate because the government stops private vaccines from being used by private persons. No wonder it is the worst country to stay in the whole world because of slow and few vaccinated persons,” he added.
Compliant with IATF
The vaccination program at the AyalaMalls Central Bloc is handled by Ayala Healthcare Holdings Inc. (AC Health), a wholly owned subsidiary of Ayala Corp.
Sought for comment, Margaret Bengzon, Qualimed Health Network Group chief operating officer and Ayala COVIDShield Program head, said: “AC Health and its subsidiaries are compliant with the vaccination guidelines issued by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), DOH (Department of Health) and the relevant LGUs (local government units).”
“We continue to vaccinate patients coming in for their first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. At the moment, booster doses are not yet allowed by the DOH / IATF. In fact, the Cebu City LGU has stationed staff outside our vaccination site to screen out persons who have already been vaccinated per LGU records. We will notify eligible COVIDShield vaccinees as soon as the necessary guidelines have been released allowing the administration of booster doses,” Bengzon said.
COVIDShield is AC Health’s vaccination program, offering comprehensive services from inventory support, scheduling, vaccine administration and post-vaccination surveillance, the company said.
According to a July 8, 2021 statement on the Ayala Corp. website, AC Health launched that month its COVIDShield program, “serving hundreds of companies, including large multinationals, other conglomerates, BPOs, manufacturing firms, and other private sector partners who have entrusted the group for their own vaccinations.”
Last Monday, the DOH said it had approved the recommendation of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) on the provision of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for health workers and senior citizens in the fourth quarter of 2021, provided the acceptable vaccination coverage had been achieved.
It said this coverage was 70 percent of the target population for hotspots like the National Capital Region, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
The Cebu City Government said Thursday it had not yet begun administering third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr. Jeffrey Ibones, head of the City Health Department (CHD), said they had yet to receive guidelines from the DOH, the lead agency in the country’s vaccination rollout.
Ibones said even health care workers like him had not yet received their third or booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The vaccines administered by the local government unit are free.
Ibones said if there were private vaccination sites giving booster shots, the CHD would not be aware of it.
But if this was going on, he said this should not be allowed because the CHD and the City Government are bound to follow guidelines set on this.
On Wednesday, Oct. 27, the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 said it was preparing for the rollout of booster shots for the targeted population that may begin in November following the recommendation of the HTAC.
NTF chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said they were waiting for the amendment of the Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccines to be used as booster shots, as well as the review from the DOH all experts group. (JOB, CTL, PAC, TPM / SunStar Philippines)